Kevin Winter/Getty
January 23, 2009 12:00 AM

Two weeks into season 8 and American Idol is still pulling in viewers thanks to a solid talent pool and the addition of songwriter-producer Kara DioGuardi as the fourth judge.

Despite a ratings dip this season, Idol is still the top show in America after airing its first four episodes.

“This wouldn’t have been on TV for eight years if it wasn’t doing right,” executive producer Ken Warwick told PEOPLE before the start of the season. “I’m not ashamed of the dip in ratings because I’ve got eight years of success behind me … I’m not that worried about it.”

By adding DioGuardi to the judges’ panel, Warwick and the Idol production team picked someone who describes herself as “opinionated, feisty, strong.” And the new judge has already proved that she isn’t afraid to say what she’s thinking — whether that’s critiquing a contestant or sparring with Simon Cowell.

“In the beginning, it was very difficult. I was very nervous,” DioGuardi confesses. “I’m critical of myself. I want to be great. I’m sitting with three of the biggest names in TV. It’s an enormous amount of pressure.”

While DioGuardi says you can expect more spats with Cowell, there won’t be any drama between the new kid on the block and fan favorite Paula Abdul. It’s just not going to happen, Abdul says.

“We’re great friends and I think that everyone wants to make it like ‘Oh, there’s going to be rivalry,'” Abdul says. “But for me it’s been fantastic. We have a great history and it bothers Simon to no end.”

Next week, there will be three consecutive nights of Idol featuring auditions from Jacksonville, Salt Lake City and New York and San Juan, Puerto Rico (beginning Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on FOX). — Monica RizzoKevin Winter/Getty

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